ESA Certification Process 

Emotional support animals (ESAs) play a crucial role in the lives of people suffering from mental health issues, from chronic depression to anxiety. ESAs are regarded as assistance animals that are protected by federal laws for housing and air travel. 

In order to qualify for an ESA, you need to meet certain criteria. People commonly talk about “certifying” their pet to become an emotional support animal, but that’s technically not accurate. You can’t legally qualify for an emotional support animal with a certification or certificate from an organization. 

When people talk about certifying their animal companion as a real emotional support animal, what they’re really referring to is the process of obtaining an ESA letter from a mental health professional. What are emotional support animals, and what does it take to obtain one? In this article, we will look at how to get a legitimate ESA letter from a dependable online provider like ESA Doctors.

Part 1: What is an emotional support animal?
Part 2: What is an ESA letter and how can I get one?
Part 3: Who is eligible for an emotional support animal?
Part 4: Where will my ESA letter be accepted?
Part 5: Getting an ESA letter online

Emotional Support Animal Certification Guide - Infographic - ESA Doctors

If you are ready to see if you qualify for an ESA letter, start below.


Part 1: What is an emotional support animal?

There are two types of assistance animals: service dogs and ESAs. Unlike a service dog that is highly trained to assist with a disability (for example, hearing, mobility, or sight impairment), an emotional support animal doesn’t require any specialized skill. As long as the animal brings comfort and helps with symptoms of the owner’s mental or emotional health issues, it can potentially be an emotional support animal.

However, that’s not to say you can make your current pet an ESA automatically because it provides those benefits; there are steps you will have to take for your pet to be legally recognized as an emotional support animal. 

certified emotional support dog

Part 2: What is an ESA letter and how can I get one? 

To start the process of qualifying for an ESA letter, you must first see a mental health professional. These include therapists, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, or other certified mental health professionals. Whatever type of professional you choose, it’s important that they are licensed in their field for your state. 

The mental health professional will conduct two primary tasks when it comes to determining whether an ESA is right for your situation:

  1. whether you have a condition that would merit an ESA and
  2. whether an ESA would actually help you deal with that condition.

If the answer to both queries is yes, then the therapist or doctor can issue a signed ESA letter for you and their letterhead. 

Once you are in possession of an ESA letter, you can submit it to your landlord or airline and inform them that you are requesting accommodation for your emotional support animal and exemption from any rules that apply to normal pets. There is no need for any further registration, licensing, or certification of your emotional support animal.

An ESA letter allows you to bring home your ESA even in no-pets buildings. Landlords aren’t allowed to charge fees or deposits for ESAs, and pet restrictions like breed or weight limitations aren’t applicable to ESAs. An ESA letter also allows you to fly with your ESA on board, free of charge. 

For air travel, an ESA letter is good for a year from the date it is issued. For both air travel and housing, it’s a good idea to be re-evaluated and renew your ESA letter on an annual basis

Part 3: Who is eligible for an emotional support animal?

To have an emotional support animal, a tenant must have a “disability” (which includes mental illnesses) for purposes of housing and a condition recognized in the DSM for air travel. The following is a non-comprehensive list of conditions that emotional support animals provide support for. 

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Autism
  • Age-related cognitive decline
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Phobias 

To determine if you have a qualifying condition, you should always consult with a licensed mental health professional. 

Part 4: Where will my ESA letter be accepted? 

First, it’s important to understand that emotional support animals are not service dogs and are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many ESA novices frequently make the mistake of thinking they can bring their ESA everywhere after they are issued an ESA letter. 

Under the ADA, service dogs are generally entitled to be with their handlers in public places where the handler is allowed. This means that service dogs are allowed in restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and other businesses. On the other hand, emotional support animals have more limited protections under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).  

The FHA allows individuals with a documented ESA to live in residences with their support animals, even in no-pets buildings, free of charge or deposits. Breed and weight restrictions that apply to pets don’t apply to emotional support animals, and landlords must accept ESAs unless they have a valid reason for denial (like if the ESA in question was dangerous or unsafe). Fair Housing rules for ESAs were passed to allow ESA owners to enjoy their homes to the same degree as non-ESA owners. 

If you are flying with your ESA, you are protected under the ACAA, and you may travel with your ESA in the cabin of the airplane.  Most airlines require that you provide your ESA letter and additional forms 48 hours before your flight. There is no extra charge when traveling with an emotional support animal. However, you should be aware that there can be restrictions for very large animals, long international flights, and owners with more than one ESA. 

certified emotional support animal

Part 5: Getting an ESA letter online 

You can get an ESA letter online, just make sure to do it the right way.

online esa

Thanks to telehealth and online platforms like ESA Doctors, seeing if you qualify for an ESA letter is more convenient than ever. The best part is that an ESA letter obtained from a licensed professional online is just as effective as one obtained from seeing the licensed professional in person.

The process to qualify for an ESA is simple:

  • Step #1 – Client completes an ESA Questionnaire.
  • Step #2 – ESA Doctors connects the client with a licensed healthcare professional. 
  • Step #3 – The healthcare professional evaluates the client’s mental health and determines whether an ESA would be helpful. 
  • Step #4 – If the client qualifies for an emotional support animal, the licensed professional will issue a signed ESA letter by email. 
  • Step #5 – The client submits the ESA letter to their landlord or airline. 

Start your questionnaire now to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal


Get the love you deserve.